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Soundscape Project to blur lines between art and science

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 | Posted by


Dancers from the SSU Department of Theatre Arts & Dance (courtesy of SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts and Dance)

Dancers from the SSU Department of Theatre Arts & Dance (courtesy of SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts and Dance)

What do you get when you combine students working with environment studies, engineering science and theatre arts? The answer is the “Soundscape Project” which is an original dance piece showcasing the sounds of natural soundscapes.

For the Fall Dance Concert 2013, the SSU Department of Theatre Arts and Dance will present unique, new dance works along with original music. Funded in part through the Green Music Center’s Academic Integration Grant and the Sonoma County Community Foundation Grant, the “Soundscape Project” uses the environment of sounds that were recorded at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve, which is a nature reserve located on Sonoma Mountain that spans over 400 acres.

Dr. Bernie Krause, a bioacoustics expert, provided training to students within the Environmental Studies and Planning department to record a wide range of natural and man-made sounds found on the preserve. Using handheld recorders, students recorded sounds between May and June to sample biophonic, geophonic and anthrophonic sounds. Sounds were also captured at coastal areas and the Galbreath Wildlands Preserve.

Engineering students then archived and edited the recordings into a sound library from which composer Jesse Olsen Bay created an original score. Bay is a local Bay Area composer who has done work for numerous dance companies and is also on staff at SSU.

SSU student dancer Jared Wiltse is a creator and dancer in the Soundscape Project (Courtesy of SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts and Dance)

SSU student dancer Jared Wiltse is one of the creators and dancers in the Soundscape Project (Courtesy of SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts and Dance)

Christine Cali, an instructor and Bay Area choreographer, Kristen Daley, the director of the dance program, along with SSU dance students, used Bay’s score as inspiration for the interpretive performance which uses the changing ecology of Sonoma County, video and acoustic recordings to create a merger of art and science.

“The idea started with Claudia Luke, the SSU Preserve Director,” said Daley. “She had this great idea about interplay between art and science.”

This is the first year of the academic integration grant. Luke consulted with Dr. Krause before writing the grant that would combine biology, engineering, arts and dance.

“We created this performance that reflected the place and the sounds to try and connect to the soundscapes,” added Daley.

The Fall Dance Concert is comprised of two additional works along with the “Soundscape Project”. “Crumble,” is an original piece choreographed by Rogelio Lopez that explores how a person can overcome personal challenges and emotional crisis with the help of family and friends. The music is by Janis Brenner, Theo Bleckman, Meredith Monk and Iva Bittova.

“It’s a Movement,” is a piece choreographed by Risa Jaroslow, with dancers, which explore the development of movement. The music is by Robert Een and Steve Reich.

The Fall Dance Concert will be held at the Evert B. Person Theatre on the SSU campus with shows at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov 21, Friday, Nov 22 and Saturday, Nov 23 along with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov 24. Tickets prices are $10 to $17 and available at the SSU Box Office at 664-4246.

Additionally there will be a free encore performance of the “Soundscape Project” on Friday, Dec 6 at 12 p.m. in Weill Hall of the Green Music Center.


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Nick Walden is our Rohnert Park + Cotati correspondent.
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